Living At Home Til 34? Are You Kidding Me?

By Quentin Fottrell

To Rep. Paul Ryan, college students forced to move back in with Mom and Dad are the poster children for the bad economy. But from a personal finance perspective, experts say returning home can be a triumph.

“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” Ryan said at the Republican National Convention this week. It is a growing trend: There are more adult Americans age 34 or younger sleeping in their childhood bedrooms now than at any other time in the past 30 years, studies show. Nearly one-quarter of those ages 20 to 34 were living at home between 2007 and 2009, up from 17% in 1980, according to a study released this month by Zhenchao Qian, of Ohio State University. The rate is closer to one-third for 25- to 34-year-olds, says Kim Parker, the lead researcher on another recent survey, “The Boomerang Generation.” But just because more young adults are moving in with their parents doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

Andi Cooper, 31, a communications specialist from Ridgeland, Miss., who recently moved in with her parents, says people shouldn’t feel sorry for her. “I’m extremely happy,” she says. And she’s not alone. Some 78% of those surveyed in the Pew study say they’re satisfied with their living arrangements and 77% feel upbeat about their future finances. “If there’s supposed to be a stigma attached to living with Mom and Dad through one’s late 20s or early 30s, today’s boomerang generation didn’t get that memo,” Parker says. It may also be part of a larger cultural shift: People are also getting married later in life and flying the coop later, Qian says.

To be sure, many young adults are living with their parents strictly because of joblessness, low wages or high housing costs. About one-third of 25- to 34-year-olds say they moved back or never left because of the economy, the Pew report found, up from 11% in 1980. But there’s a silver lining too. Nearly half of these young adults say they have paid rent to their parents instead of to some anonymous landlord, and 89% say they have helped with household expenses, the report found.


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